Spanish PM Sánchez will Approve the Draft Bill of the 2019 Spanish State General Budget Tomorrow Friday

Spanish PM Sánchez will approve the draft bill of the 2019 Spanish State General Budget in the next government Cabinet meeting on Friday to begin the procedure for parliamentary approval, though he doesn’t have yet the necessary support.

PM Sánchez assured in an interview earlier this week that the Budget will be approved: “Spain is going forward in improving social policy, economic growth, and the creation of quality jobs.”

Secretary of Organization of the PSOE José Luis Ábalos: “The only gestures they [the Budget] have are those aimed at improving the lives of all Spaniards, regardless of where they live.” Improvement of social measures and territorial investments will improve the situation of the communities. There are no other gestures,” Ábalos added.

ERC had demanded these measures in the last few days as well as a political solution for the Catalan crisis, and especially the political prisoners.

The Spanish government doesn’t have enough guaranteed votes for the approval of the Budget for now; however, they affirm they will negotiate it with all the parliamentary groups, including the independentists. The government also urged the PP and C’s to approve the Budget if they don’t want them to be dependent on pro-independence forces.

President Torra and his administration said on Wednesday that they won’t support the Budget if there is no offer on self-determination. On Monday, the president of the PDeCAT, David Bonvehí, said that his party will not allow the start of the parliamentary procedure for the approval of the budget if Spanish PM Sánchez Pedro Sánchez does not make a “serious” political offer for Catalonia. On the other hand, ERC said they won’t give a blank check, but they prefer to wait to see the Budget before making a final decision.

If the Spanish government fails to approve the 2019 budget, PM Sánchez would likely be forced to call for snap elections, which could dramatically change the current political situation. Recent polls give the far-right and right parties — Vox, C’s, and PP — an absolute majority in Congress which would likely be used to curtail freedoms and social rights.

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Roadmaps of JxCat, ERC, and CUP for the Implementation of the Catalan Republic

JxCat: Confrontation and immediate implementation of the Republic

JxCat does not renounce “any democratic and peaceful means” to bring about the Republic and aims to win it “through intelligent and peaceful confrontation with the Spanish state.” It defends “an indispensable commitment to pacifism, non-violence and the active (internal and international) action of all institutions, as well as citizen mobilization and strict obedience to the legality that arises from the Catalan parliament, not the Spanish one.”

JxCat also urges a response to the needs of all citizens, claiming that this should be a process with an inclusive intent and maximum civic participation to expand social support and achieve “majorities that allow safeguarding the popular will, and especially that of their legitimate representatives.”

JxCat believes that “ideal” conditions to implement the Republic could be achieved between this September and May: the commemoration of the October 1st independence referendum, the trial against jailed Catalan leaders and their sentences of up to 30 years in prison could create a perfect momentum for pro-independence parties to proclaim independence and call for its defense. According to sources, this would come by President Torra calling for an early election in November, aimed at pro-independence parties winning more than 50% of the total vote in order to legitimize the implementation of the Republic in the eyes of the international community.

Given that scenario, Presidents Puigdemont and Torra recently created a new political platform called the “Crida Nacional,” a political platform aimed at unifying all pro-independence forces under the same party to win an eventual election. This platform is likely to be constituted as a political party on October 1st. (President Torra can legally call for an early election starting October 27th.)

ERC: Growing social support for independence before implementing the Republic

The leadership of ERC would like to postpone the implementation of the Republic until social support for independence is a clear majority: around 60 to 70%. The bases of the party, however, recently forced the leadership of the party to include the possible immediate implementation of the Republic, if “conditions” are met, in its roadmap.

At the political level, ERC wants to increase “synergies and complicities” with sectors that are in favor of democratic principles and exercise the right to self-determination, despite not being independentists like CeC, and keep a “fluid and profitable dialogue with constitutionalist political parties of Catalanist tradition” like the PSC.

At the social and territorial level, ERC is committed to finding new support from working classes, women, and newcomers, as well as campaigning in Barcelona and the metropolitan areas of the country, which are pro-Spain strongholds. To achieve this, ERC pursues involvement in active processes of social change and democratic renewal that can be driven by non-pro-independence sectors, “to emphasize the desire to build a new, fairer country. A plan that should be based on “civic patriotism, secularism, and inclusiveness,” to prevent any fracture of society. They also underline that the new Republic “will be sensitive to respecting and preserving multiple identities and the diverse feelings of belonging that will be present within their citizenship.”

ERC will support the implementation of the Republic when the conditions are met (probably in autumn). This will come from organizing and coordinating with other social actors, massive actions which could range from “mass demonstrations to an indefinite strike,” without setting limits. They also emphasize the need to keep all acts of disobedience peaceful.

It also proposes that other political parties “train and organize” together, with other pro-independence organizations, so they will be ready to defend the Republic. The goal is to avoid the situation of lack of coordination of last October when the Catalan government ruled out the possibility of defending the Republic.

Finally, ERC recognizes the importance of individual actions from the Catalans to disconnect from the State and the regime of the 78. For example, it is committed to promoting financial entities and companies “with social conscience and that do not depend on the favors of the Spanish government.”

The Primary objective of ERC in carrying out acts of civil disobedience, however, is to force the Spanish State to negotiate a self-determination referendum. That is, “to ensure that the government of Madrid assumes a framework of dialogue and bilateral negotiation in order to make possible a democratic resolution,” which will have to be mediated by international bodies.

CUP: Similar strategy as ERC in social matters, but believes that social changes can only be achieved in an independent Catalonia

The CUP claims to stay alive within the state from the beginning and organize a “non-violent mass civil and institutional disobedience.” It makes clear that disobedience must be the central driver of the new phase of the process, in which it is committed to “mobilization and civil disobedience and massive nonviolent institution disobedience.” It believes in new offensives that create tension and permanent instability to deepen the crisis of the political regime of the 78 inside and outside of Spain.

Not a step back or a break, the anticapitalists try to “keep the situation with Spain alive [… ] through disobedience at all levels, inside and outside the institutions,” with a clear objective : “To reach that place from which we can challenge the State and initiate the application of the agreements, laws and actions necessary to truly establish the new Republic.”

CUP is also committed to “unequivocally and definitively linking the struggle for national liberties, the fight for social rights, and the feminist struggle” and, in the case of the independence movement, strengthen “the central role in the struggle of working classes, popular and class feminists.” In order to achieve this, it urges the creation of community decision spaces shared between independence, republicanism, and social movements.”The participation of the working class and the whole of the popular classes” in the construction of the Republic is another one of its pillars.

In contrast with ERC, the CUP is skeptical about possible agreement frameworks for independence, as it emphasizes that “there is no possibility of negotiating anything with the Spanish state other than surrender” and, in fact, it warns that, if the [Republican] movement is weakened, Spain would deepen its intervention in all areas.” The anticapitalists, however, admit that they must end up in a multilateral negotiation phase, but they say that disobedience is the only way to force international actors to mediate.

 

 

The Leader of the Spanish Ultra Nationalist Ciudadanos Party in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, Justifies and Promotes Attacks against pro-Independence Supporters

The leader of the Spanish ultra nationalist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, accused the Catalan government on Sunday of being responsible for recent aggressions against people who wear yellow ribbons.

“The Catalan government should accept that yellow ribbons don’t represent all the Catalans,” Arrimadas said.

Arrimadas avoided condemning such aggressions, and instead, called on the Catalan government to maintain institutional neutrality by removing yellow ribbons from governmental buildings. She believes that everybody is free to wear yellow ribbons on their jackets or use other types of symbology at home, but never in institutions because according to her, yellow ribbons are comparable to symbols like the “swastika” used by the Nazis.

We’re worried about the social fracture and these acts of ‘violence’ can happen. We have been the first party to say that we must discuss how to recover peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among Catalans.” Asked if the Catalan political parties should do self-criticism, she said that C’s has proposed a plenary session to discuss the Catalan conflict and the return to Spanish constitutional legality. “We want everyone to participate, it will mean that the social fracture worries the rest of political parties.

In this way, Arrimadas avoided condemning the recent fascist attacks against peaceful pro-independence supporters. In the last few weeks, Arrimadas and her political party have been accused of endorsing these kinds of violent attacks against innocents and some of their members have been seen in nocturnal squads removing yellow ribbons from the streets in numerous cities across Catalonia.

Since Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) became the new Spanish prime minister, following a successful motion of no-confidence against the then Prime Minister Rajoy on June 2nd, C’s appears to have hardened its position against pro-independence supporters, probably expecting to recover the big social support that they once had, and have lost in hardly a week.

A few days before the motion took place, C’s was leading all the polls for new Spanish elections, reaching 28,6% of the votes against 20% for the PSOE. However, with Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) as prime minister, the tables have been turned with C’s losing nearly 8% of their support, becoming the third party in Parliament with only 21,1% of votes, behind the PP and the PSOE who went on to win the elections with 28,8% of the votes.

With those “awful” projections, C’s appears to have launched an anti-Catalan campaign aimed at getting support from traditional PP supporters. In past elections, an anti-Catalan discourse gained millions of new voters and the victory to the PP.

Hence, it is expected that C’s will continue making attacks against pro-independence supporters until the next elections take place in 2020. Chaos and an escalation in the conflict between Spain and Catalonia may give them a chance of winning the elections and becoming the leading party in Spain.

Josep Borrell, a ‘radical’ anti-independentist, who once said that the Catalan pro-independence movement was a disease, has been appointed as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has nominated Josep Borrell as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Borrell, who was ex-minister in Spanish socialist governments and ex-President of the European Parliament, is a controversial figure characterized by his relentless offenses against Catalan pro-independence leaders. During a unionist demonstration organized by a far-right organization in Barcelona last December, Borrell said: 

It’s a good idea, this ‘stitching up wounds.’ They have to be stitched up. It’s true: this is a wounded society and it has to be cured. But, before closing the wounds, they have to be disinfected. Because, if they’re not disinfected, things rot. The social body has to be healed, so it has to be scrubbed well with disinfectant.”

Borrell resigned as president of the European University Institute in 2012 following accusations of conflicts of interests. In 1998, Borrell accompanied convicted politicians of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to prison who were sentenced for organizing and taking part in (GAL), a state terrorism group that acted in the Basque Country during the 80’s and caused 27 deaths.

Pro-independence parties have criticized Borrell’s appointment and accused the new Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez of fueling the conflict in Catalonia. President Puigdemont went further and said in a Tweet that the Socialist party was attempting to divide Catalan society.  

The Catalan government has been calling to open a dialogue with Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez since he became President last week in order to find a solution for the continuing political conflict between Catalonia and Spain.

Despite the appointment of a radical anti-independentist as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Catalan administration has insisted on the need to start bilateral talks with Spain as soon as possible. However, behind the scenes, pro-independence leaders recognized that there are few chances of that happening. They believe that Sánchez will follow the same strategy that his predecessor ex-PM Rajoy used during his term in office: the judicialization and criminalization of the pro-independence movement.

Brief Biography

Born in 1947 in Pobla de Segur, Lleida, Borrell began in local politics before joining the PSOE party and eventually rising to ministerial level. He was the minister of Public Works, Transport, and the Environment during the third and fourth terms governments of Spanish PM Felipe González (PSOE). In 2004, he was elected head of the European Chamber where he served from 2004 to 2007. He joined the board of the Spanish multinational corporation Abengoa in 2019 and became chair of its international advisory board a year later.

Borrell has a doctorate in economic science from the Complutense University of Madrid, and he has studied at the French Institute of Petroleum in Paris and Stanford University in the US.

Dual Government in Catalonia?

Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism. However, the announcement of the Spanish government that it will use its direct rule over Catalonia to eliminate Catalan as a vernacular language at schools has forced ERC and JxCat to understand each other and accelerate their negotiations.

A number of possible formulas to swear in Puigdemont as president are under discussion. The possibility of forming a dual government with some members in Brussels and others in Barcelona appears to be the most feasible one. In an interview with ACN (Catalan News Agency), Elsa Artadi (JxCat) said that her party and the ERC are preparing the necessary logistics to make it possible to govern from both places.

She also said that Puigdemont has to be sworn in even though the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Spanish government are determined to prevent it from happening. She explains that Puigdemont cannot be just a symbolic figure. For her candidacy, she has to “govern, be part of the executive power and have complete legitimacy.” Artadi added that Puigdemont should be the leader of the country, the one “setting the tone” of Catalonia’s politics.

The debate between the ERC and JxCat is developing on the assumption that part of the Catalan government will be in Brussels and the other in Barcelona. While Artadi said that Puigdemont should be able to return to Catalonia after being sworn in, the chances of that happening are remote since there aren’t sufficient guarantees that he wouldn’t be imprisoned.

Similarly, other sources from the negotiations admitted that they still have to find a formula to guarantee a normal pace of activity in the Parliament.

JxCat and ERC representatives announced yesterday that their negotiations have progressed significantly. However, they won’t announce any agreement at least until the end of next week or the following one. They said that they don’t want to prejudice the legal strategy of numerous members of JxCat and ERC, including its current leaders, who will have to appear in the Spanish Supreme Court for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public money over the next few days. They believe that the announcement of an agreement could cause their immediate imprisonment.

The major Catalan pro-independence organization, ANC, adds pressure on pro-independence parties

Last week, the ANC Executive Assembly decided to warn ERC and JxCat that if they did not reach an agreement soon on forming a government, respecting the mandate of the latest election, they will organize mass protests against them. It also encouraged the future Catalan government to disobey the Spanish government and the Spanish Constitutional Court because it is the only possible way to implement the Catalan Republic.

On February 25th, 50,000 members of the ANC will define its new road-map for the next two years. The one proposed by the direction includes the organization of permanent protests across Catalonia in order to defend the Catalan Republic. According to them, it is time for civil society to take part in the fight for independence, stressing that without mass protests and mass disobedience coming from society the Catalan Republic will never become a reality. It also added that the actions of political parties are limited due to judicial processes against their leaders and members. And finally, it encouraged other grassroots organizations to coordinate protests in order to build the Catalan Republic.

 

 

Pro-independence Agreement on Puigdemont’s Investiture in the Coming Days

JxCat and ERC appear to be close to reaching a final agreement on Puigdemont’s investiture. Elsa Artadi, the JxCat spokeswoman who is leading the negotiations, said this morning, “The negotiations with ERC have progressed significantly. I think we will be able to reach and make public a final agreement on Pugdemont’s investiture tomorrow.”

During the weekend, representatives of ERC and JxCat met several times in Brussels and Barcelona, seeking to reach an agreement. While they agreed that Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate (as demonstrated by the latest general election) to become president, they showed discrepancies on the legal procedure to make it possible without putting more pro-independence leaders in danger.

During the meeting, JxCat’s representatives said that they are willing to disobey Spanish Constitutional Court orders, considering that they have always been proved to be biased and antidemocratic against the Catalans. However, representatives of ERC said that the investiture of Puigdemont wouldn’t mean that more Catalan MPs would end up in prison.

According to sources present in the meetings, JxCat and ERC are negotiating the investiture of two presidents and the creation of two governments. The legitimate one would be based in Brussels and the second one (in Barcelona) would rule the country while implementing the Catalan Republic. This move could allow pro-independence parties to bypass Spanish justice while taking effective steps towards the independence of Catalonia.

The idea would be to use a pro-independence assembly (created in 2016) of local and Catalan-wide elected members to swear in Puigdemont as legitimate president in Brussels. At the same time, another person would be appointed to preside over the Catalan Parliament. According to sources, President Puigdemont would (symbolically) rule Catalonia from Brussels.

However, the CUP, a minor party which guarantees the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament, opposes this option, believing that there must be only one president and a government willing to disobey Spain in order to effectively implement the Catalan Republic. They said that they won’t attend the investiture session, which would make the election of a president impossible, unless their conditions are met.

The second option on the table would be to reform the Regulation of the Catalan Parliament to bypass Spanish justice and swear in Puigdemont at a distance. However, Spanish officials have already announced that this move would be brought to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which would likely declare it unconstitutional. They added that this move would also mean that the members of the Catalan Parliament Bureau, who may approve it, would face legal liabilities.

The Spanish government and Catalan unionist parties reject a dual-presidency

The leader of the “Catalan Socialist Party,” Miquel Iceta, called on the Catalan pro-independence parties to stop “posturing” and said that the new Catalan government shouldn’t be formed by politicians who have pending judicial causes.

Ines Arrimadas (C’s) said, “I hope that JxCat and ERC officials are brave enough to tell Puigdemont that he won’t be president again.”

Albiol (PP) said, “I think it is a joke, this is more typical of a video game or virtual reality. In a serious scenario, it would be impossible to even consider this possibility, but we are in the country of fantasies.”

 

Spanish Constitutional Court Blocks Puigdemont’s Investiture as President

On Saturday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that Carles Puigdemont can only be sworn in as president in person and with a juridical authorization prior to appearance in court. This decision, which sets a dangerous precedent, comes after the Spanish government pressured the court to rule in its favor.

According to ex-members of the Constitutional Court and prestigious jurists, the Constitutional Court violated its own rules by adopting precautionary measures against Puigdemont and four members of his cabinet since the Court only had the power to decide whether or not to consider Rajoy’s cabinet’s appeal.

Most of the current judges which form the Spanish Constitutional Court were directly appointed by the two largest Spanish political parties, PP and PSOE, which shows the high degree of politicization in the Spanish judicial system.

The Spanish government made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would appeal against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president in the Constitutional Court. This came after Rajoy said there was no legal basis for such a move a few days before.

Vice-President Santamaría alleged that a fugitive couldn’t be nominated as president without previously appearing in front of a judge. She added that there was also an ongoing search and arrest warrant issued against Puigdemont.

The Spanish Council of State formed by former ministers and lawyers ruled on Thursday that Puigdemont’s candidacy for president couldn’t be suspended until there is a firm judicial sentence against him since he retains his rights as an elected MP.

A Remote Investiture and Delegation of Votes

The Constitutional Court ruled against the remote investiture of Puigdemont since the presidential candidate must be physically in the Parliament during the debate. The Court also prohibited Puigdemont and the four ministers of his cabinet, who are in exile in Belgium, to delegate their votes for the investiture session.

Warning against the Catalan Parliament Bureau

The Constitutional Court also called on the members of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau to respect its resolution, pointing out that whoever disobeys it will face criminal charges.

Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

A few hours after learning about the resolution of the Constitutional Court, the Catalan lawyer of Puigdemont Cuevillas said that he would probably take the Constitutional Court decision to the European Court of Human Rights. He said it was a political decision which violates his client’s rights.

Numerous representatives of JxCat said, “ We will not propose [for president] a candidate other than Puigdemont. Plan A is Puigdemont; Plan B Puigdemont.”

Puigdemont’s reaction

“Even the Constitutional Court rejected the legal fraud that the Spanish government was perpetuating. More than one person should rectify the situation and end the politics once and for all. And if they are unable to do so, they should consider stepping down and giving way,” he tweeted.

The Spanish government also reacted to the news by welcoming the fact that the judges do not allow an investiture at a distance, which Madrid brands as “fraudulent.”

The CUP party calls on Catalan parliament speaker Torrent to “disobey”

The CUP party urged the Catalan Parliament president to disobey yesterday’s Constitutional Court resolution against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president. It added that they will only be present in the investiture session if Puigdemont is the candidate. Otherwise, they will attempt to block the formation of a new government which could lead to new elections.